In an audio recording recently obtained by Global News, Jason Kenney said he spent his Christmas break seriously considering leaving his job as premier of Alberta, but decided to stay on for the good of his party.
“What’s the easiest path for me? Just to take a walk. I don’t need this job,” Kenney said in a secretly recorded meeting with members of his United Conservative Party caucus staff.
“I can go to the private sector, have my evenings and weekends off — it would probably be a lot more lucrative — and have a normal life and not live under bone-crushing pressure every day,” he continued.
Kenney is currently facing a leadership review forced by members of his party dissatisfied with his performance. It is how he views some of these members that convinced him to not step aside.
“The lunatics are trying to take over the asylum, and I’m not going to let them,” Kenney said.
“People who think I am involved in a global conspiracy to traffic children literally showing up to vote on April 9.”
This recording was made before the UCP board changed the rules of the leadership convention. It will no longer be an in-person vote on April 9. Instead, it will be done through mail-in ballots.
In a statement, the premier’s office said the comments made by the Kenney to staff are consistent with previous public statements on this matter.
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READ MORE: UCP backbenchers break ranks, call on Jason Kenney to resign
This type of language led to at least two backbench UCP MLAs calling for Kenney to step down and launch a leadership contest.
“Dividing and labelling others only produces contention and destroys trust. That is not leadership,” MLA Jason Stephan wrote in a letter outlining his concerns with the premier’s leadership.
“The gracious thing to do would be to step down and to support a new leader,” Stephan said Thursday afternoon.
“There are many wonderful men and women who have different, unique gifts and abilities and talents who would be wonderful leaders.”
MLA Peter Guthrie has also called for Kenney to step aside.
“The premier has taken to the use of terminology such as extremist to describe anyone who is in opposition to him — this is completely unfounded and unwarranted,” Guthrie said in a video posted to Facebook.
“It’s a kind of politics of personal destruction. It uses identity politics to classify people so their opinions can be dismissed or cancelled.”
“This pattern of attacking anyone who disagrees with him is unfortunately too consistent and is not serving him well in these circumstances,” said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
Williams said adding to the evidence of that is the fact one of the premier’s own staff members felt it necessary to record the comments and leak them.
“The divisions that we thought were sort of outside of the political inner circle, those divisions clearly extend to within that inner circle as well.
“It’s looking very bad for Jason Kenney.”
UCP members will receive their ballots later this month and they must be in the possession of the party by 5 p.m. on May 11. The results will be announced on May 18.